Hay supplies are still very short and prices remain high in California, according to Norm Beach, vice president of the San Joaquin Valley Hay Growers Association (SJVHGA) in Tracy.

As a result, some dairy farmers are switching from hay to alternative feeds – lower-priced commodities like canola, he explains.

“It’s really slowed down the hay trade. The hay price is so far out of whack with what they can get commodities delivered for.”

The price of canola is hovering around $300/ton, while high-quality alfalfa is upwards of $450/ton, Beach notes. “There's a point where it doesn't make economic sense for the dairies to buy the hay.”

High-test hay still sells well throughout California, but the market for lower-end crop has dropped off. He sold feeder hay recently for $275/ton delivered, down from $310-315/ton earlier in the summer.

“That’s still a really good price, but it's just not where it was.” Beach expects prices to creep upward as fall approaches, unless hay-growing conditions improve dramatically in the drought-stricken West.

“The growers who hold tight on price will get it in the fall, unless we get some big rainstorms that change the whole picture.”

A few hay growers have had to dry up fields and divert their remaining water to more expensive crops, such as tomatoes, Beach notes.

SJVHGA, the world’s largest hay-marketing cooperative, represents growers annually producing alfalfa from a total of 40,000-50,000 acres.

Contact Beach at 209-610-9568 or email haynorm@sbcglobal.net.